How Much Money Do Writers Make? Here Are 8 Jobs With Surprising Salaries

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 20: Newly redesigned $100 notes lay in stacks at the Bureau of Engraving and Printing on May 20, 2013 in Washington, DC. The one hundred dollar bills will be released this fall and has new security features, such as a duplicating portrait of Benjamin Franklin and microprinting added to make the bill more difficult to counterfeit. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
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The recession technically ended a while ago, but many of us still find ourselves overworked, underpaid, and uncertain about our financial futures. While salivating over other people's high salaries has probably been a human pastime since the advent of money, it has an extreme allure amidst our financial doldrums. 

Because we live in a "market economy" (and not a centrally-planned communist state, thank goodness), jobs tend to be paid in accordance with the law of supply and demand. That means that even if a job seems "important," it's only paid highly if there aren't many people who can do it. Conversely, even dumb or trivial jobs can be highly paid, if the supply of workers is low. 

Here are eight jobs that are surprisingly overpaid or underpaid. Can you guess which are which? 

1. Art Directors 

Overpaid or underpaid?

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Answer: Overpaid! Art directors, who "formulate design concepts and presentation approaches for visual communications media, such as print, broadcasting, and advertising. Direct workers engaged in art work or layout design," sometimes make bank. The top 10 percent earn $169,450 annually, with a mean income of $96,650 — not too shabby for basically having a little bit of flair. 

2. Mental Health Counselors

Overpaid or underpaid? 

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Answer: Underpaid. You might think that mental health counselors would be able to share in their piece of the productivity-saving pie, considering that they literally save lives and get people back to their jobs besides. But due to a glut of adequately-qualified providers, wages have been pretty depressed. Mean annual income stands at $43,290, with the bottom 10 percent earning only about $25,000 annually. 

3. Transportation Inspectors

Overpaid or underpaid? 

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Answer: Overpaid. I had never even heard of transportation inspectors, but they are apparently the people who "inspect equipment or goods in connection with the safe transport of cargo or people. Includes rail transportation inspectors, such as freight inspectors; rail inspectors; and other inspectors of transportation vehicles." The top 10 percent of inspectors earn a cool $112,690 per year.

4. Makeup Artists

Overpaid or underpaid? 

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Answer: Overpaid. Hey, I've been applying my own makeup perfectly adequately for about 15 years now, so where's my $121,910? Don't plan on switching to this well-compensated career anytime soon, though: fewer than 2,500 Americans are employed as makeup artists. 

5. Firefighters

Overpaid or underpaid? 

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Answer: Underpaid, unfortunately. You'd probably hope that the fine men and women expected to throw themselves into flames at any time of day or night to save your life and property would be well-paid, but they're not. Firefighters earn only $47,850 per year, with emergency medical technicians (EMTs) coming in over $10,000 below that. Maybe this is evidence that Americans are clamoring to find decent jobs that may require training but not necessarily a college degree.

6. Home Economics Teachers 

Overpaid or underpaid?

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Answer: Hilariously overpaid: the top 10 percent of home ec teachers earn $108,790 per year. Mind you, this includes those who are both engaged in teaching and "research," though (what are they doing, baking extra brownies at home?) Drama teachers rake it in, too: their top 10 percent earns $122,360. I won't even begin to speculate as to what their "research" entails. 

7. Legislators

Overpaid or underpaid?

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Answer: It's complicated. Judging by the numbers, legislators seem underpaid, with the mean legislator earning just $38,590 per year. However, many of these jobs are not year-round, and they aren't all designed to be full-time endeavors. Also, it's debatable how much legislators actually accomplish for their money...

8. Writers

Overpaid or underpaid? 

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Answer: Maybe I'm doing something wrong, because 10 percent of writers earn $117,050 per year or more. Then again, the mean income stands at $69,250, which means many writers are earning far less. Because the category is so broad — writers "originate and prepare written material, such as scripts, stories, advertisements, and other material" — it's capturing sexy copywriters with more mundane, grunt work writers. So maybe don't quit your day job just yet!

Images: Giphy (10) 

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